One of the most important measures of the employee experience at your business is something you might not even gather information on right now—it’s employee engagement. Highly engaged employees are the secret to a highly successful business because they’re more productive in their roles, more satisfied with their work, and an inspiration for their entire team.
But how can you know how engaged your employees are right now?This is where employee engagement surveys come in. These surveys can provide accurate, actionable data on your employee experience, as long as you deploy them the right way.
What is employee engagement, exactly, and why is it so vital to measure? Employee engagement is how emotionally committed employees are to their work, their team, and your organization as a whole. Engaged employees feel deeply involved in their work, and they feel that work has value. They feel invested in your company, its mission, and its success.
Sounds powerful, right? It absolutely is. And employee engagement isn’t just a feel-good metric either—it has a strong connection to business results. Engaged employees are up to 22% more productive. Highly engaged teams have less turnover and a stronger safety record than disengaged ones, and companies in the top quartile for employee engagement outperformed their bottom-quartile counterparts by 10% on customer ratings, 20% in sales, and 21% in profitability.
All of these statistics point to one fact—employee engagement is too powerful of an engine of business success to ignore. And this leaves many companies wondering how to measure employee engagement. This is why many companies run regular employee engagement surveys.
Employee engagement surveys
Employee engagement surveys are a type of employee feedback survey that measures:
How happy employees are
How dedicated employees are to the mission and outcome of your company
It’s an important indicator of the health of your business and a good way to spot areas for improvement. Many large corporations run a yearly employee engagement survey to measure where they stand currently and to see if employee engagement is tracking upwards or down. Some businesses measure engagement in pulse surveys that go out every month or quarter. And quite a few don’t measure employee engagement at all.
Employee engagement vs. employee satisfaction
Employee engagement is often confused with employee satisfaction. While the two concepts certainly overlap, they’re not the same. Employee satisfaction surveys help you gauge how satisfied and happy employees are in their workplace and in their roles. Satisfaction is an important component of employee happiness, as dissatisfied employees are likely to do a poorer job at work and quit quickly.
However, a satisfied employee is not necessarily an engaged one. Employees can be content with their role, pay, and perks, but not feel invested in your company’s mission or convinced that their work has value and meaning. They’re simply satisfied to do an adequate job and head home right at 5 pm. These satisfied employees are more valuable than dissatisfied ones, but they’re also not as valuable or productive as highly engaged employees.
What does an employee engagement survey measure?
An employee engagement survey measures multiple facets of the employee experience and employee sentiment to see where your engagement levels currently stand. They measure:
How connected employees are to their work
How connected employees are to their team
How connected employees are to their organization
When employees trust in their leaders, they are more engaged. Leaders that employees don’t feel they can trust, on the other hand, decrease engagement. Employee engagement surveys can gauge how leadership behavior is affecting employees.
Nature of work
When people feel the work they do has value, they’re more engaged and productive at their jobs. No one wants to feel they’re simply doing busywork all day, or sitting in meetings they don’t need to attend because that’s the expectation. Engagement surveys help measure how meaningful employees find the work they do every day.
A clear path to career development and growth is another important factor in employee engagement. When employees feel their career is stagnated with no room for learning or growth, they’re unlikely to feel engaged. Measuring how employees feel about the potential for career development at your company can be done with an engagement survey.
Employees who feel proud to work at your company likely connect to your mission, your values, or your involvement in the community—or all three. And they’re likely to be more engaged as well.
Since your employees spend most of their waking hours at work, the people who work with and around them are very important to their engagement and satisfaction. It’s much more pleasant to work on a team full of motivated, qualified, engaged individuals than the opposite.
Employee engagement surveys have many advantages for your business. They can reveal information about employee perceptions you would not have known about otherwise. These perceptions can include their colleagues, the workplace culture, management, the company as a whole, and much more.
Employee engagement surveys can also help employees feel your organization is responding effectively to their feedback. When they sense that your business is listening to what they have to say, and taking real action based on their feedback, that leads to lower absenteeism, better customer service, and higher employee morale (just to name a few benefits). Done correctly, engagement surveys can help improve employee productivity and improve employee retention. But this only works if your organization is willing to actually make meaningful changes based on employee feedback.
Crucial elements of an employee engagement survey
In order to deploy a successful employee engagement survey, there are multiple elements that are crucial to your survey’s success.
Your survey needs to be confidential so employees feel comfortable sharing even their negative thoughts. It should serve as a learning tool as well, not just something to check off on a to-do list. The engagement survey should be comprehensive and cover all the most important aspects of the employee experience so you don’t miss out on key insights.
Employee engagement surveys are not primarily designed as a tool for your business’s priorities—they are there to give employees a voice they would not otherwise have. That’s why your survey needs to encourage listening to those voices and hold managers and leaders accountable for making changes based on feedback. And that’s also why your survey should be actionable—you want to be able to make the right changes based on what you learn.
Your engagement survey should be unique to your organization since your employees and your business are not one-size-fits-all. Using a template to design your survey is acceptable as long as you customize the questions to your organization’s needs. Your survey should also be convenient and easy for your employees to take—they have their jobs to do as well, after all. And of course, it should generate benchmarks to track your progress over time so you know how your efforts to improve engagement are working.
How to deploy an employee engagement survey
Deploying an employee engagement survey takes several strategic steps if you want it to be as successful as possible.
Decide what you want to study
Before you take any other steps to launch your engagement survey, first you need to decide what exactly you want to study. There are many elements of the employee experience that affect engagement rates, and your survey probably can’t cover them all. It’s vital to figure out which aspects you most want to gain insight on and focus your survey on those parts so it is not too long for employees to complete.
You should also focus on areas where you know you can take action. For example, if you know that commuting time is a pain point for your employees but you can’t control area traffic, you don’t need to ask about that. You’ll gain more insight asking about areas you have control over instead.
Identify areas for action
Once you have run your survey, you will need to analyze the results and identify areas where you can and should take action to improve the employee experience. These areas could include manager effectiveness, more meaningful work, better career development and coaching, or other aspects of the employee experience that can improve employee satisfaction and engagement.
Create a plan
Once your areas for action are identified, it’s time to create an action plan to put those insights to use. You should identify which areas potentially impact the employee experience the most and prioritize those, as well as the ones which are easiest to implement. You don’t need to take action on everything right away - that’s not practical - but you do need to take the employee feedback you received seriously and plan to address each action area. That’s the best way of managing employee survey data.
Maintain the plan
This action plan is not a one-time item on a to-do list you can simply check off. It’s a living document that should be updated once action items are put into place and improvements have been made, or at least attempted. You should keep records of what was implemented and the results of the implementation for future surveys, and also keep your next survey in mind so you’re prepared.
Categories of questions to ask
Wondering how to ask for employee feedback the right way? There are many categories of questions you can ask to measure various facets of the employee experience that may be affecting engagement rates. You don’t need to use every category—your survey should focus on those areas you determined in your planning stages.
Leadership: Do you feel like the management team here is transparent?
Planning: Do you believe the organization has your best interests in mind when making business decisions?
Management: Do you feel like your supervisor is invested in your success?
Job role: If you were given the chance, would you reapply to your current job?
Job satisfaction: On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you at work?
Workplace culture: What three words would you use to describe our culture?
Communication: Do you feel that communication is a two-way process in this organization?
Motivation, commitment, and empowerment: Do you see a clear tie between the company’s mission and your individual job?
Colleagues: Do you feel like coworkers give each other respect here?
Training and career development: Do you have a clear understanding of your career or promotion path?
Recognition and rewards: How frequently do you receive recognition from your manager?
Resources: Do you have the tools needed to maximize your potential here?
Work/life balance: On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your work-life balance?
Diversity and inclusion/equal opportunity: Do you feel leadership in the organization treats all employees equally?
There are a huge variety of questions you can ask your employees in your engagement survey—it can be overwhelming to decide which ones to use when you’re conducting your first survey. Here are several categories of employee engagement survey questions and examples to get you started.
These questions are designed to determine how satisfied employees are in their roles and in your organization. While satisfaction is not engagement, there is overlap between the two and so both are important to measure.
How do you feel about work today?
Would you recommend this organization to your friends?
Do you feel excited about coming to work?
Are you proud of working for our organization?
Are you satisfied with your current compensation and benefits?
When employees feel aligned to their roles and your organization, they tend to feel more engaged. These questions will help give you insight into how aligned your employees feel right now.
Do you find your work meaningful?
Do this organization's vision and values inspire you?
Do you feel like your supervisor is invested in your success?
Future orientation questions
Knowing how employees feel about their future at your company is a good marker of engagement—disengaged employees tend not to see a bright future for themselves at your organization.
Do you see yourself working here in a year?
Does your work challenge you and aid your development?
Do you see a path for career advancement here?
Open-ended questions allow employees to offer their own opinions freely without being constrained by your pre-selected answers. They can help your organization surface ideas and issues you may not have thought to ask about.
What practices do we need to change?
How can we help improve your engagement at work?
Getting the most from your employee engagement survey
Following these best practices for your employee engagement survey will help you get the most insightful, actionable data and information from your survey.
Keep questions simple and to the point. If employees are confused by your question wording, they’re likely to abandon your survey quickly and your response rate will be lower. Be sure your questions are clear and simple.
Know what metrics are important to the organization. Your engagement survey should focus on the metrics that are important to your employees and your business, not simply what sounds good in a survey. Focus on the metrics that matter to your organization.
Include open-ended questions. While these questions are harder to analyze in bulk, they also offer a way for employees to share what’s on their minds even if it’s not something you thought to ask about. Open-ended questions also help employees share why they feel a certain way.
Conduct pulse surveys on a regular basis. Sending out an engagement survey once per year is good, but it leaves a lot of time in between where you’re unsure of how employee sentiment and engagement have changed. Pulse surveys sent monthly or quarterly can offer a solution.
Make the surveys anonymous. Employees are not going to offer you honest and open feedback if they feel there will be retaliation for their opinions, so ensure your survey is truly anonymous and the data is confidential.
Make sure employees have time to respond. Your employees are busy working hard for your organization, so ensure you’re allowing them time to complete the survey thoughtfully in their work day.
Follow up. Sending out a survey is not a solution to low engagement in itself—you also need to follow up by sharing results, taking action, and sharing the news about those actions with employees.
After the survey
After employees have completed your survey, the process isn’t over yet. You should have a complete communications plan in place that includes thanking employees for taking the survey and telling them when you will share the survey results. Be sure to share survey results as soon as possible so they stay relevant.
When you communicate the survey results, also share the next steps in the process to take action on the survey findings. You may not be able to make changes right away, but you should tell employees what you’re doing in the meantime such as forming committees to decide on which changes to make and how to make them.
And finally, once changes begin to be made, continually share those wins with employees as well. An engagement survey is not a once-a-year communications opportunity - you should be sharing what you’re doing with their feedback year-round so they know their opinions have stayed at the top of the minds of their leaders and managers.
Conducting employee engagement surveys regularly is essential to create an excellent employee experience—and an excellent employee experience creates an exceptional customer experience as well. Make surveying your employees, analyzing the feedback they give you, and taking action on the results easy with GetFeedback’s complete survey and analytics platform.